Whether it’s your personal training program or work, people can develop the mindset of never taking a ‘day off’ no matter what. A certain level of self-accountability and discipline is needed to achieve anything in life, in particular your health and fitness, but where do you draw the line between holding yourself accountable and running yourself into the ground?
Being a personal trainer I see this a lot with clients who are so determined on achieving their goal, that they end up sacrificing their health along the way.
There a couple of things to consider if you’re thinking about dragging your snotty nose and loud coughing self down to your personal training session.
What’s wrong with training while you’re sick?
When you are sick your body will be under a lot of stress fighting whatever illness you may have. If it’s minor illness (like a common cold), you may be able to train through it. But if it’s more severe it can be a bad idea to keep pushing yourself.
Going to the gym and training causes stress on the body in various ways such as the breaking down of muscle tissue which takes a toll on the nervous system. If you are healthy, your body is able to recover from this stress and make positive changes like increased muscle mass and strength.
If you are ill and your body is already in a state of stress, further bouts of stress such as weights training and a hard day at work will be too much stress for the body to handle and it won’t be able to respond positively. Your ability to make progress is low if you are training whilst you’re sick, so taking a day or two off from the gym may not be a bad idea to let the body recover.
The other issue is the potential risk for the acute stressors of being sick turning into a chronic state of stress and fatigue in the body. Constantly pushing yourself through states of stress and illness can impact the adrenal glands. They are responsible for releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, which are elevated in times of stress. If the adrenals are constantly having to work overtime, they can potentially burn out and become fatigued. This will affect your daily energy levels and your body’s steroid hormones will be impacted which can lead to increased body fat and decreased muscle mass.
There are also implications of training on the immune system. If you are sick, you want to assist the body to eradicate whatever is responsible for the infection as quickly as possible. If you keep pushing yourself and taxing your immune system, your body will be unable to combat the infection sufficiently, and will need to work harder for longer to take care of the problem.
Our personal training clients often contact us when they are run down or feeling sick, asking us if they should go to the gym or not. The advice that I give them is to weigh up the pros and cons of going to the gym. If going to the gym and sweating it out will help you feel better and reduce the effect of a cold then it might not be a bad idea to train. But if going to the gym is going to make you feel fatigued, achy for the next couple of days, or make your illness even worse, the best idea would be to focus on getting a good night’s sleep and letting the body recover from the illness first.
Remember to always keep in mind the bigger picture of the next 6, 12 or 24 months ahead of you. Taking a day or two off from the gym because you are sick isn’t going to make or break your results in 12 months’ time.